My daughter is about to head off to college. There’s another good-bye almost every night as each of her friends packs up and leaves. I can’t help but think about my own college years. And those first years thereafter. And while the economy stinks, the burden of student loans may be heavy, and a job after graduation is far from a certainty, I’m excited for these kids. I think the future looks great for them.
Why? Because this world is a far different place than the one I faced when I went off to college.
These kids don’t see race the way we, or especially or parents, did. As a senior in high school, I went on a date with an African American boy, though back then, he was just “black,” not African American. My mother says that as we left the house, my father sarcastically huffed “I always wanted my daughter to marry a black man.” Thirty years later, my daughter went to her prom with a Portuguese African young man, and no one batted an eye.
At college, I joined the women’s swim team. We were a tiny team, traveling to and from meets in a van while our coach puffed away on cigarettes, and I battled nausea in the back. Only after graduating did I learn that our team was the product of Title IX, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that ended up significantly impacting, and expanding, women’s athletics. We wouldn’t have existed without it. Today, the women’s swim team at Georgetown University is thriving. And the coaches wouldn’t dream of smoking with the young women in the car.
My first couple of years in school, I typed out my papers on an electric typewriter that I got as a gift as a high school senior. I had one professor who demanded no white-out. If I made an error, I had to start over. Do kids even know about white-out today? And I talked to my parents only once a week from the hall pay phone because the long-distance phone rates were so high.
My daughter will type her papers on her new laptop that she got as a graduation present. She’ll call and text us from her cellphone whenever she wants. Or she’ll Skype us.
Technology has created a world of infinite possibilities for these kids. If a traditional job doesn’t exist, technology makes it possible to create something totally new. How exciting is that? And while I still struggle to catch up and learn, technology is a part of who they are. It comes naturally to them. They can keep up.
When I graduated from college, I didn’t know where to begin to look for a job. I waitressed for six months. Then I temped. Eventually I took a job as an administrative assistant. I couldn’t understand why my male classmates seemed to have “real jobs,” while I slogged away as a glorified secretary with a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service. But then I was off to graduate school, and my life changed forever.
When my daughter graduates, she probably won’t even consider a job as an administrative assistant. She’s already talking about going to Russia to teach English. You go girl.
And when I contemplated having my the baby now about to leave for college, I switched jobs from a hectic newsroom to a more predictable schedule producing news magazine stories and documentaries. I loved it. But finding that work-life balance was a challenge. Back then, no one even talked about work-life balance. According to Wikipedia, the term “work-life balance” wasn’t used in the United States until 1986. Today, everyone talks about it. Women, and men, strive for it. And there are Web sites and institutes dedicated to it.
I believe my daughter won’t have to make the kind of sacrifices I did. It will be easier for her generation of women to, not necessarily have it all, but find a balance.
Yeah, I think it’s a great time to be a young woman.